The Biomin World Nutrition Forum, taking place October 15-18, is looking at sustainability, with the spotlight falling on both broader issues and specifics.

For those in the poultry industry there was a strong, positive message, “As demand for meat grows, chicken will win!”

But not all messages have been so positive. Jorgen Randers of the BI Norwegian Business School noted that global growth will not be able to sustain the 3.5 average annual increase recorded over the past 40 years and that in the rich, developed world, it will slow to almost zero. And in the rich world, money will be increasingly diverted away from productive investment to problem solving, while in the poorer parts of the world starvation will continue.

Mankind will be able to produce enough food to satisfy demand, but not to satisfy need, i.e. there will remain significant numbers of people who will not have the income to buy the food they need, even if that food can be produced. And society as whole too often takes a short-term view, he argued. Solutions to climate change and starvation, for example, are available, but the average person is not prepared to make the necessary sacrifice.

But those in livestock production can make a difference, and the WNF is also sharing its fair share of success stories.

Looking at the ever more common restrictions on use of antibiotics, Maarten De Gussem of Vetworks in Belgium referred to the “panic” that existed among European livestock producers as the EU began to introduce restrictions on antibiotic use in livestock farming a little over a decade ago.

The reduction in antibiotic use in the poultry industry has led to a paradigm shift in thinking about gut health and its relationship with performance in the industry. But even where antibiotics are used, broad spectrum drugs are all too often being used where narrow spectrum would suffice, so there is a big discrepancy between indication and choice, he argued.

Gut health is by far the most important topic to the poultry industry at the moment, and there is still a lot more that can be achieved.

The University of Arkansas’ Robert Wideman gave the example of using a probiotic for preventing lameness in poultry. Bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO) affects approximately 15 percent of all broilers grown to yield weight. The primary sites of BCO lesions are in bones subjected to shear, stress, torque and weight bearing. He referenced trials in which a probiotic has been as effective as enrofloxacin.

“In an antibiotic-free world, there are no magic bullets,” he said, “but there will be plenty of opportunities to examine gut health.”